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Yeshua in Context » Applying the Gospels, Discipleship - Formation, Eyewitnesses, Identity of Yeshua, Reading Strategies » Reasons for Faith in Yeshua

Reasons for Faith in Yeshua

This post is a bit less about the background of the gospels and more about theology and apologetics. But its basis is a theological reading of the gospels and it should help readers see themes to look for.

1) The foreshadowing of the Great Coming Resurrection in Yeshua’s resurrection.
Resurrection (the bodily raising of the dead at the end of the age) is an idea only referred to in later passages in the Hebrew Bible, but the idea became a staple of classical Jewish faith (not just Christian faith). Pinchas Lapide’s famous book (The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective) concludes that Yeshua truly rose but then reinterprets this in a way that denies he is Messiah. Lapide, in my opinion, overlooks what occurred to Paul on the road to Damascus (where Paul came to understand that if Yeshua was raised, the age to come had already dawned in a way). Far more than a resuscitation, the raising of Yeshua signified the dawning of the new age. With Yeshua the age to come had broken through. See N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God for a more thorough examination. This is no legend and it is not so easily dismissed.

2) The foreshadowing of the final healing and redemption of the world.
The healing stories in the gospels, read them with fresh eyes, are not about a wonder worker or Galilean Hasid (a Galilean Holy Man, as Yeshua is portrayed in Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew). The healing stories of the gospels make the point that wherever Yeshua was, the kingdom was. Isaiah 35 and 61 are very much in mind (see Matt 11:5).

3) The vindication of Yeshua.
Executed as a messianic pretender, he was vindicated by the resurrection and ascension. Lapide’s theory suffers terribly here. If his theory is true (God raised Yeshua because his death was unjust and he was supremely righteous, but he was not Messiah and he died again later), what was God thinking? Why would God raise a pretender?

4) Yeshua’s unconventional messianic aims.
No one, wanting Jews and gentiles in ancient Rome to believe in Yeshua, would invent the many problematic sayings and deeds of Yeshua. He was not the typical messiah-figure and he contradicted many ideas of popular messianism. Various messiah-figures of the first and second centuries have come and gone, but Yeshua the enigmatic one remains.

5) The reliability of the gospels.
So many have said things like this and have been vulnerable because they assumed claims for the gospels that are impossible to defend. I mean by reliability the soundness of oral tradition, the apparent use of eyewitness testimony as detailed in Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, and their inclusion of the embarrassing for the Yeshua movement and even for Yeshua himself. The differences and discrepancies which blew apart, apparently, the faith of Bart Ehrman (Jesus, Interrupted), are only a problem for people who accept a simplistic formula (infallibility or falsehood).

6) The complexity of Yeshua’s understanding.
The concept of God, of Wisdom descending from heaven to earth, of the absolute transcendence of the Direct Being of God and the immanence of the Presence in the world, is awfully advanced for a collection of supposed legends by a church seeking to manufacture a savior. Yeshua’s “you must be born from above” way of thinking foreshadows much mysticism to come. That the early Christian movement did not understand what Yeshua was talking about is evident in the controversies of the first few Church Councils. How did early Christianity invent texts it did not understand?

7) The realism of Yeshua’s death.
He was weak. He thirsted. He shouted loudly at the moment of death (and not, as in many poorly thought-out sermons, a shout of victory, but of despair). He spoke of abandonment (embarrassing to his followers afterwards who had to explain this). If the messiahship and resurrection of Yeshua are invented legends, the inventors were extraordinarily sophisticated.

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Filed under: Applying the Gospels, Discipleship - Formation, Eyewitnesses, Identity of Yeshua, Reading Strategies

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